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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

What I learned by leaving beer out for Santa

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When I was little, my dad convinced me to leave beer out for Santa. All the other kids would be setting out milk and cookies, he explained, and the big guy in red might like a brewski and buttered popcorn for a change.

Since my father enjoyed that very snack just about every night, I figured he was right, the bearded one might also be partial to a savory nibble.

So that’s what we did in our house.


I chuckle now when I think of my 6-year-old self preparing my dad’s evening treat, completely clueless.

But it also taught me something important:

Your holidays don’t have to be storybook perfect.

They certainly don’t have to look like anyone else’s.

And what makes them yours also makes them special.

When my son was born, I attempted the Hallmark version of the holly jolly business. But I soon concluded there was no merriment in trying to juggle shopping, baking, party after party, gift exchanges, traveling and concocting big, elaborate meals while also caring for a tiny human.

I realized it’s the little things, like leaving out a beer and popcorn for Santa, that I remember from my childhood Christmases. Or oohing and ahhing over local light displays with my sister. Or stringing popcorn until our fingers bled while watching the old Rudolph and Frosty movies.

With that realization, I pared it way down and focused on my favorites.

These days we get together and exchange gifts with the extended family when it’s most convenient for everyone. Even if that’s Thanksgiving or well into January.

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Holiday baking never much jingled my bell, so I dropped all but one favorite, family recipe.

However, I adore making advent calendars and gingerbread houses, so we never skip those.

I’ve embraced the four-present rule to keep the gifting under control.

And on Christmas Eve, just like my younger self, my children will shun the traditional cookies and milk for Santa Clause. In fact, this year I think a gin and tonic would do nicely.

Originally posted on the author’s blog, For more posts like this one, follow her at Facebook/boogersabroad.

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